Boating Safety's Five Golden Rules
Recreational boating is about having an enjoyable time while you’re on the water. And it’s always fun and games until someone get hurt or has a bad experience. No matter what kind of boating activity you participate in, these five “golden rules” will go a long way toward ensuring that your trips on the water end safely.
1. Always wear your life jacket.
70% of all boating deaths are drownings, and over 80% of all drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Wearing your jacket all the time you’re on the water is the most important thing you can do to ensure your safety. So why doesn’t everyone do it? Some say, “They’re uncomfortable.” Not so—modern jacket designs ensure there’s a comfortable fit for every body type. “I’m a good swimmer, I don’t need one.” That’s like saying you’re a good driver so you don’t need to wear a seatbelt. Bottom line: there’s no good excuse.
2. Know your limits.
All too often, accidents occur when we boat in conditions that exceed our skill level. With any type of boating you undertake, start slow. Get some training, go with experienced boaters, visit your local boating equipment dealer, ask questions, practice self rescue. By all means, be honest with yourself. If the worst happens, can you handle it? Are you being urged by others to do something you know you shouldn’t attempt? Live to boat another day.
3. Dress for a swim.
Water conducts heat 25 times more efficiently than air. Wear apparel that will minimize heat loss when you go in the drink. And yes, if you boat long enough you will go for an unplanned swim. The temperature doesn’t have to be freezing to be dangerous; spend very long unprotected in 60-degree water and you’ll be in trouble. And there are many areas where the water never gets above that temperature.
4. Don’t boat alone.
There’s safety in numbers. If you get into trouble when you’re by yourself, you’re totally dependent on your own resources to get you out of it. If you’re with others, you’ve got their resources to call on. Even if they can’t totally rescue you, they can assist you. At the very least, go for help.
5. Bring backup.
If you’re boating where there’s cell service, bring your phone, waterproofed of course. Purchase, and practice with, the safety gear designed for your type of water sport. Create a “boater’s ditch kit,” with enough essentials to help you survive an unplanned night out. With some careful planning, you can make the basic kit small enough to carry in a belt pouch or in your life jacket. It should include some basic first aid supplies, a fire steel or waterproof matches, some fire starters (cotton balls saturated with Vaseline work great), a space blanket or bivvy and a collapsible water container with some water purification tablets. And you should always have a knife and whistle on you. You can also pack a small dry bag in the boat with things like some warm clothes, high-energy snacks, headlamp and some lightweight rope.
Follow the Five Golden Rules, and you’ll go a long way toward the goal having fun on the water, while doing it safely.
Boat Often, Boat Safe!